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Consumers Expectations For Brand Leadership Has Changed

Jacob Steinfield, Assistant Account Executive
May 7, 2020

An acronym soup for breakfast: COVID, WCS, and KPIs

It does not look like our distancing days are going to go anywhere soon, but even when mobility comes back – and we rise dramatically from the couch – consumer relationships with brands will have been transformed.

There's some debate over habit-forming timelines. Conventionally, 21 days was the magic number needed for permanent changes to occur (based on research published in Maxwell Maltz's 1960 bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics), but more contemporary researchers have found the length closer to 66 days. Either way, our COVID journey will certainly surpass both, and we have undoubtedly developed new attitudes and conditions that will remain as the world slides back into normalcy.

This is especially true in consumer expectations for brands as embedded community leaders, given the instantaneous pivot to solemn commitments to employees & customers in response to this emergency. There is a new standard for purpose from these entities: The uncountable statements of “togetherness” and ventures for collective healing will not be allowed to merely dissipate in the post-COVID era (which will not be such a binary distinction either). Learning from those who have delivered effectively and creatively in these conditions (see Light, Coors) will be imperative as consumers are more inclined than ever to use their buying power on companies whose actions and values align with their own – and uncommitted to companies who merely shouted for everyone to remember they existed. As Adweek reports from social psychologist Hillary Haley, “[People] don’t just want to be helped, they want to provide help themselves, and they’ll reward brands that act as facilitators.”

Take Spotify for example. This week, they launched their Music Relief project, with a new Artist Fundraising feature that gives listeners the option to donate to their favorite artist directly or a relief initiative of their choice. Donations will be matched by Spotify up to $10M, and users are given immense freedom to provide much-needed support.

Spotify

During this time, our client Eastern Bank has also successfully delivered on the values of their long-standing Join Us For Good brand campaign. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, they have pledged $10 million in aid to those most affected, became founding donors and administrators for the $25 million Massachusetts COVID-19 Relief Fund, and provided pathways for people to join them in giving efforts along the way. The brand has deep roots in local volunteering and service, with this additional leadership making it clear that commitment to their communities is not new or temporary, but endemic to their brand’s DNA. 

Brands & marketers must consequently re-calibrate the levers they use to turn communication and brand identity into desired outcomes.

This brings us to an important consonant jumble: WCS – What Constitutes Success?

Achieving a quantifiable level of success is not a new challenge in the advertising space. The rise of digital marketing made the wide world of impact measurement a much more complicated game. Near infinite opportunities for companies to connect with people, ever-consuming throughout their day, creates a dizzying array of data points to synthesize. No longer is a sales lift or focus group – both limited by bias – the only ways to measure effects. We can see the resonance in real-time with brand recall and changes in buyer habits, and instantly tinker, AB test, and iterate. This can, however, restrict the horizon of our improvement targets in the endless pursuit of immediate incremental benefit. It is important to take a step back from your anchored campaign norms to identify larger potential opportunities, especially as messaging expectations change.  

Customers are less motivated than ever by undiluted sales pitches or vague statements of pandemic camaraderie, growingly conditioned against them, and capable of tuning out through ad blockers and nearby alternative devices. Attention needs to be truly earned, and people react positively and strongly to premises that are relevant, important, and authentic to them – especially when those messages are tied to action beyond the advertising or purely-commercial realm.  

As The Atlantic’s Amanda Mull reports, “[Leadership] vacuums have often been filled by brands that see social issues as an opportunity to connect with customers — especially younger ones, who want to believe that there’s a right way to spend their money.” While it may be challenging in our current circumstances to rationalize, brands are on the right track trying to compel outcomes that benefit society. In fact, consumers have growingly defined brands themselves by their social practices and philanthropic priorities.

Cooperation opportunities are key for marketers to validate brands as forces of communal good, but there is a huge opportunity and need for brands to give more direction in achieving such results. While hope and community belonging are fabulous intentions, the onslaught of purpose-based messaging inundating our timelines and networks with solemn background music often do not give specific, convincing instruction to achieve these goals. This is where marrying commonly-shared desired outcomes to internal metrics of improvement can create business objectives that are sincerely important to the customer – like the aforementioned Coors activation. Coors raised spirits with a unifying metric of donating 500,000 beers, while also focusing on definitive financial impressions by contributing all merchandise profits to COVID relief efforts. 

Cause-based marketing may pose difficult questions for ROI, but we can use our skills in translating data-driven insights to make cause-related messages as productive as our commerce-related ones. 

To do so, marketers must re-define their KPIs – Key Performance Indicators

Good marketers understand that true ROI is based on the lifetime value of your relationship with the customer, and the positive externalities that being in their network entails. To achieve such fruitful relationships, marketing initiatives must find a compelling way to demonstrate not just shared values, but a common purpose, all while facilitating ways to connect the two. Consumers understand that advertising is aimed to drive action, and when that action is one they consider worthy, it creates an association of aligned incentives.

Considering the enormous challenges in global health, environmental protection, and human rights, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t be compelled to think favorably of a campaign intentionally designed to improve these worthy outcomes. Converting favorable perception into action can be a difficult task, but brands can ignite such behavior by communicating KPIs that are meaningful to both the company and consumer. 

Conveying a measurable definition of success for your civic engagement program helps alleviate public concern about motives. Non-monetary KPIs can also be constructive, such as donated cans of non-perishables, volunteer hours, or shelters built. These not only create attainable goals, but valuable bonds for the company and consumers to work together toward. 

To build this new type of relationship with customers, brands often partner with philanthropic organizations that have endemic popular trust. It’s a form of assuaging concerns about the integrity of their efforts. However, with hundreds of brands flooding the market with cookie-cutter COVID-19 responses, such partnerships alone cannot galvanize when consumer individuality is not recognized. Advertising is often powerful because it speaks directly to a specific need, but when a sea-of-sameness permeates throughout, that influence dissipates.

Whatmomslove

To break this mold, AMP helped its client GIANT Food Stores launch the national #MoreForAll campaign, aimed to mitigate panic shopping by spreading direct, actionable instructions and driving awareness through digital conversations. Across media platforms, and with influencer help, local individuals instructed followers on ways to extend the life of their produce and urged them to be considerate of their peers. AMP was able to measure overwhelmingly positive sentiment and engagement, the topic clearly resonating with followers, and GIANT was able to see definitive reductions in over-buying.

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Even when the COVID-19 era subsides, there is a heightened expectation and opportunity for companies to continue to support communities. Large organizations can use their scale and connections to create value beyond their immediate spheres of influence, and engrain themselves positively into the public consciousness. When normalcy returns, brands should look at the successes of these charitable causes moving forward, and see that ROI can be earned and sustained with marketing that optimizes its positive impact on consumers’ daily lives. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Brands are increasingly defined by their conduct as community leaders and responses to social needs
  2. Leading firms are developing stronger relationships with consumers by empowering buyers to make a philanthropic difference with their spending
  3. Cause-marketing is most effective when campaign KPIs are also pertinent to consumer ideals, and messaging clearly illustrates how specific actions by both parties can catalyze an outcome that is mutually rewarding.

Related Posts

How to Evaluate if Influencer Marketing is Right for Your Brand Right Now

Anna Tremblay, Senior Manager PR & Influencer Relations Jennifer Carroll, Director PR & Media Relations May 27, 2o2o As our world continues to face lots of change, each level of the marketing funnel is changing and influencer marketing is no different. It is paramount that brands evaluate their influencer marketing efforts to ensure that it is an effective and efficient spend as budgets continue to shrink. Over the course of the last few months, we’ve been able to aggregate learnings from well-executed (and not-so-well executed) influencer programs from brands across many consumer categories. Prior to launching any influencer campaign, we believe that the performance of a four-step audit can help determine if influencer marketing is the correct approach for your brand at this time. By auditing the brand/segment, storytelling opportunities, potential partners and go-to-market messaging, we are able to build end-to-end recommendations that ladder up to overarching brand goals and KPIs while remaining sensitive to the current climate. Step 1: Brand & Segment Audit Does your brand/segment have something meaningful to contribute? The first step in our audit process is to identify the key brand product or service offering and the segment category it falls into based on consumer perception. Some questions that are helpful in identifying these offerings and segment categories are as follows: Is the segment category providing a service that is applicable to the current climate? - Example: Stay at home/lounge clothes everyone needs vs. High-end fashion. What value does this product bring to consumers? What sets your brand apart from other players in the space? - Here, you can leverage customer incentives and brand differentiators to help drive consumer consideration. Once you’ve established that the segment category is applicable and the product offering brings value to consumers in the COVID-19 era, you can move on to establish the potential storytelling opportunities for each key product offering. Step 2: Storytelling Opportunities What are the storytelling opportunities for this product or service? “Buy this product” messaging no longer works with consumers – particularly during a global pandemic. So, we have to get creative. During this stage of our audit, it’s important to identify all of the potential storytelling angles for your brand or product. Here’s what we recommend doing in order to achieve this: Establish a editorial calendar of tentpole moments. - These moments could include promotions, holidays, cultural moments, etc. Prioritize up-to-date editorial themes. - What are consumers going to relate to most right now? Determining the answer to this question will help your brand pinpoint winning messaging placements and strategies. Ensure storytelling angles are positive and uplifting. - Consumers get enough doom and gloom on the news today. Now is an opportunity for your brand to spin up some positivity in its messaging. Step 3: Potential Partner Identification Who are the partners that can relay this message with relatable authenticity? One of the most important (and fun) steps to planning an influencer program is sourcing partners to help tell your story. First and foremost, key customer demographics must be identified in order to create sourcing criteria. Influencer needs must also be determined during this step. Does your campaign require a tiered approach? Just one macro influencer? A network of micro-influencers? Answering questions like these will help in selecting the best possible partners for your brand. Leveraging an influencer sourcing tool to confirm key influencer audience metrics is paramount to connecting with the correct consumers and providing program ROI. Last but not least, brands must do their due diligence to ensure that selected influencer partners not only align with brand values, but that their online presence reflects these values. Step 4: Messaging Assessment Does our message need to be altered or tailored to the current climate? Now more than ever, it is incredibly important that both your brand and your influencer(s) do not come off as tone-deaf. We recommend taking the following steps prior to pushing content live in order to ensure that the content will be well received: Acknowledge the current climate without centering campaign messaging around it. - “Since we’re spending so much time at home...” or “These days, I love trying out new recipes…” are two solid examples of lead-ins influencers could use when discussing your brand or product. Be nimble and pivot as necessary. - Things change rapidly. In the time between content creation and posting, circumstances can change. This means it’s imperative for your brand to ensure that content stays relevant and gets messaged appropriately. Coordinate with influencers to determine tailored messages based on their knowledge of their content performance and audience. - Influencers know their audience better than anyone and know what will resonate with them – so why not ask them to help your brand? By auditing your process through the steps outlined above, any influencer campaign you work on can successfully meet consumers where they are with relatable stories and a product or brand that they can get behind. Check out the piece on Little Black Book Online: https://www.lbbonline.com/news/how-to-evaluate-if-influencer-marketing-is-right-for-your-brand-right-now

The Absence Of Sports Effects On Advertising

Guy Rancourt, VP of Media May 14, 2020 I miss sports – both personally and professionally – and I know I’m not alone. Those sentiments are echoed in conversations almost as frequently as you hear people say they miss seeing friends or just going out to eat. An unintentional consequence of COVID-19 is the realization of how much sports powers the advertising world. The absence of sports has thrown our marketing ecosystem into flux, and the ripple effect of canceling major sporting events is being felt across all mediums and all categories. In the short term, the loss of linear GRP’s, digital impressions and multi-platform marketing opportunities, not to mention the amount of unspent dollars freed up with these cancellations, is staggering. Countless marketers rely on the scale and platforms that events like the NCAA Tournament, professional sports seasons and the Olympics provide in order to showcase, launch and sustain their businesses. Removing these from the marketing equation is proving to be troublesome for many brands and agencies. Countless conversations, spreadsheets, flowcharts, meetings and revisions – all culminating in media plans of which sports play a major role. Poof! Gone. All for naught. But when they eventually come back this fall, what does that mean for the marketplace? It should be good news for brands and agencies. Many events have already been stricken from the 2020 calendar: the NCAA Tournament, Wimbledon, Tokyo Summer Olympics and The British Open, to name a few. While others have been postponed until later this summer and fall – NBA Basketball, NHL Hockey, Major League Baseball, The Masters, French Open, Kentucky Derby – many more still wait for their fates to be determined.  As the leagues and television partners continue their weekly dialogues around how and when they can resume play, there are countless rumors swirling about how each of them will land the plane:   Playing the NBA season at Disney World   Pushing the college football season to the spring of 2021   Sequester all MLB teams and staffs in Arizona and Florida   Eliminate NFL bye weeks to squeeze in games in the event of a delay While all of these options are up for consideration, they’re merely speculative solves until the country gets a handle on the Coronavirus. But the point here is that they are all working on solutions to resume play. Each already has mapped out countless scenarios and contingency plans to employ, once they are given the all-clear, in an effort to save their seasons. And they may all come back around the same time later this summer and into the fall. Clearly, there are more grave and consequential things going on in the world, so I do not highlight the lack of sports as the most pressing of challenges facing us. But make no mistake – the removal of sports has turned the marketing world on its head. According to Bloomberg, more than $2.5 billion dollars have been removed from the market this year already.  That’s billion, with a B.  We’re undoubtedly headed for a recession as businesses try to recover later this year and into next. We also know that production schedules for scripted entertainment will be impacted, causing delays in original programming. This will mostly affect prime time as their pilot season has been impacted the most – and who wants to invest heavily in what could be a light schedule of first-run scripted content this fall? As such, many are speculating that the sports marketplace will be flush with cash as the logical landing spot for all of those budgets. Another sellers’ market? Consider this: the back half sports schedule will be very condensed when all of these sports return. Imagine this very real scenario on November 15th: Sunday final of The Masters, followed by a National NFL window that then leads right into a World Series Game and Sunday Night Football. Talk about feast or famine. The point I’m making is that there should be a concentration of premium sports impressions in a tight window. Will there really be enough demand for this glut of sports GRP’s? Our industry is quick to say that sports – and football in particular – are mostly immune to market fluctuations. But can Madison Avenue afford to fund all of these hungry mouths this fall?  I say no, and I think brands and agencies are in store for one of the softest sports marketplaces in a long time. Even the mighty NFL shield could see dents in the armor for the first time in a long time.

Google Search Trends Insights April 2020

In our continuing series of examining Google Search Trends to gain insights into the top keywords queried in the USA, we present our findings for April 2020. Every day, we capture the top three keyword phrases in terms of search volume as reported by Google Trends (US Only). Each term has an estimated query volume attached to it, which we also record. The number scale tops out at 10,000,000+ with a lower limit of 200,000+. After the conclusion of the month, we look at the phrases we collected along with their volumes to get an understanding of what drove queries for the month. Yes, Banana Bread Did Have Its Moment There are moments in time that you will always remember. For me, I will never forget how in April 2020, “banana bread” peaked in its search interest. Although it never made the top three queries in the month of April, it did have an impressive jump in query volume in the month of April. I’m not sure it will reach these heights again, but may we always take with us the knowledge that there is a use for that browning bunch of bananas sitting on the countertop.  The Top Trending Keywords Beyond the search increase of fruit-based bread, here are the top queries we collected in April: IRS stimulus check portal- April 15th - 10,000,000+ queries Coronavirus tips - April 19th - 10,000,000+ queries NFL Draft - April 23rd - 10,000,000+ queries Coronavirus tips - April 23rd - 10,000,000+ queries Kim Jong Un - April 25th - 10,000,000+ queries Popular Google Doodle games! - April 26th - 10,000,000+ queries Google Doodles make up half of the list, the “Coronavirus tips” query was triggered on two days in April along with the Doodle and announcement that “Popular Google Doodle games!” were going to be re-released to help with everyone’s boredom on the 26th. The IRS stimulus check portal received top queries on what is normally tax day and the nation’s need for sports was sort of fulfilled with the virtual NFL Draft that began on the 23rd.  Lastly, queries about Kim Jong Un reached its peak on the 25th as there were multiple reports about his whereabouts and health condition. Where’s My Stimulus Check? People were also trying to figure out the whereabouts of their Stimulus check in April. Of the 90 phrases we recorded in April, phrases related to Stimulus checks made up 10% of them, including the one that made our 10 million club above. Here are the rest of the keywords in the order of the date they were searched: Stimulus check IRS - April 2nd - 200,000+ queries Stimulus checks deposit date - April 5th - 1,000,000+ queries  IRS stimulus portal - April 9th - 500,000+ queries Stimulus check 2020 direct deposit - April 10th - 200,000+ queries Stimulus Checks - April 13th - 5,000,000+ queries  Stimulus Check Calculator - April 14th - 500,000+ queries IRS stimulus check 2020 - April 17th - 500,000+ queries IRS stimulus payments - April 21st - 500,000+ queries It certainly makes sense that this topic had multiple entries into the top three queries throughout the month and how much the phrases varied from day to day..  It’s a reminder of how needed the financial assistance is and that having thorough online resources available for people who are seeking information is crucial. What Takes The Place Of Live Sports? If you have followed this series of posts, sports is the most popular category of the top queried phrases in past months.. If there aren’t any sports to watch, what do people search for?  Thank goodness for documentaries and NFL players coming out for retirement: The Last Dance - April 19th - 5,000,000+ queries  Rob Gronkowski - April 21st - 2,000,000+ queries  Dennis Rodman - April 26th - 2,000,000+ queries If TV ad buyers are looking for alternatives to live sports, documentaries are getting a good amount of search interest. Singing Songs On TV The top keywords in Entertainment were related to singers on television. Andrea Bocelli - April 12th - 1,000,000+ queries Disney Singalong - April 16th - 200,000+ queries One World: Together At Home - April 17th - 500,000+ queries  Eddie Vedder - April 18th -  2,000,000+ queries  Stevie Wonder - April 18th - 200,000+ queries  As we try to get through this together, the power of song is noticeable in our search queries.  Live event TV that is geared toward family viewing appears to be driving search interest. Holidays One of the things that we picked up throughout the course of this project is the popularity of non-traditional holidays. For instance, Easter is an established holiday but did you know that National Siblings Day happens every April 10th and it’s a top searched keyword for two years running? In 2019, we recorded the phrase “national siblings day” as having driven over 1 million queries – just as it did in 2020. The Google Trends chart for this phrase shows that it was slightly more popular this year: Earth Day is a more established holiday, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Let’s take a look at how popular “national siblings day” is compared to “earth day”: Although we can’t tell with absolute numbers how many more queries Earth Day (April 22nd - 2,000,000+ queries) had over National Siblings Day, we can tell directionally that it still has a while to go until it’s as popular. Both holidays have a nice year over year trend, so brand marketers should consider them for their April 2021 plan if there is an appropriate tie-in with either holiday. Thanks for reading - Until next month.